Michele was born and raised in the Cavalier Manor section of Portsmouth by both parents. She has two sisters and a brother. Her father died when they were teenagers and her mother died in 2008 after a long illness. She graduated from Manor High School and attended Norfolk State University for four years. She didn’t finish college but dropped out of school and got a job in the accounting department at the Coca Cola plant where she stayed for nine months. Her next job was at National Life Touch Studios where she stayed for 11 years. “Then my mom took ill with kidney failure that brought on a stroke leaving her right side paralyzed. She told us years ago to never put her in a nursing home and I was the only one who could leave my job and take care of her. I was her caregiver for two years while still living in our home. When she passed away I took some time off to adjust, get to know myself better and get my health straightened out. I needed time to find out what was the next thing in my life to do. I had money saved up and started back into care-giving for my family and friends. Then I decided to move to Smithfield where my brother lives, and took a job as a non-emergency transportation driver taking people to doctor’s appointments, or whatever other appointments they needed to go to. I did that for a year until I got ill.

I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I had swollen up and put on about 60 lbs. of water weight. I didn’t know what was going on, but I got tired of hurting, not sleeping, and it was hard to get around. I went to the hospital and stayed for 14 days. When I got out, I took time off to recover and then started job hunting. That’s when it started falling apart. The money I had started running out; paying doctor bills, helping pay where I was staying, and jobs weren’t coming like they used to. I used to be able to find a job so quickly, but it just wasn’t happening.

When my mother died we got rid of the house. I just couldn’t sit there any longer. I went and lived with my nephew and his wife to take care of their kids, and was helping people in financial difficulty. I put in application after application but nothing was coming through. I totally ran out of every dime I had and did not have any money.  I needed to pay my portion of the rent and when they said, ‘You know you can’t stay for free,’ I said, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ I called everywhere and then I called The Union Mission on a Sunday, and kept calling back and leaving messages. I called my sister and asked to stay at her house one more day. I came here on Tuesday and they gave me a paper about the summer shelter in Ocean View, but my sister gave me money for a hotel for one night. I knew I had to call the Mission at 8:30 the next morning, but at 8:15 they were calling me for an interview. My niece picked me up and took me to the Mission, and they provided me with a place to stay. I was so happy. I never been like this in my life. I’ve never been without money, so it was kind of hard, but I was trusting God that he would provide a place for me and I wouldn’t have to spend the night on the street and He worked it all out for me.

I thank God for The Union Mission.  I don’t know what I would have done, because no one would take me in. I listened to the Lord and started calling around, and then they called me that Wednesday morning. I’ve never been in a shelter before. My impression was there would be lots of people in a big open room, sleeping on the floor, and I would have to guard my stuff. The staff told me I would be in a room with a certain amount of women, but it’s almost like being in a college dorm. I was scared, but not really sacred because I wasn’t on the street and when I talked to everybody, it was a place of relief, and safety. I’m grateful and I’m thankful to The Union Mission for taking me in, because they didn’t have to. They provided me with bible studies and encouragement, opportunities to look for a job without worrying where I’m going to sleep, what I‘m going to do in the daytime, how I’m going to protect myself. I can look for a job and I’m fed. I can do the things women want to do on a day-to-day basis and not worry about being on the street, where nobody cares about you.

I’m still hunting for a job and have had a couple of interviews. I just keep on applying and trusting in God. I join Bible Study Fellowship at the Mission every Tuesday. I have to stay off sodium and watch what I eat, but I’m doing pretty good. I’m trusting God to direct my path for the right job. I’m so grateful and thankful. When I get back on my feet, I hope to have the opportunity to give back to the Mission by volunteering.

I’m so grateful that there’s a place that makes me feel safe, and I’ve met so many nice ladies here. It’s like a family. We eat together, praise the Lord together, go to chapel together and pray for each other. We’re learning about each other, what we’ve been through, where we come from. I’m learning and I’m becoming free. I’m able to study the Word. I have the opportunity to exercise, get out and walk. I’m grateful to this place and grateful to the donors who provide us a place to stay, food to eat; nourishing for our minds, bodies and spirits. I couldn’t ask for a better place to stay at this season of my life. I’m totally grateful!”

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